Argonaute Autoantibodies as Biomarkers in Autoimmune Neurologic Diseases

Objective

To identify and characterize autoantibodies (Abs) as novel biomarkers for an autoimmune context in patients with central and peripheral neurologic diseases.

Methods

Two distinct approaches (immunoprecipitation/mass spectrometry–based proteomics and protein microarrays) and patients’ sera and CSF were used. The specificity of the identified target was confirmed by cell-based assay (CBA) in 856 control samples.

Results

Using the 2 methods as well as sera and CSF of patients with central and peripheral neurologic involvement, we identified Abs against the family of Argonaute proteins (mainly AGO1 and AGO2), which were already reported in systemic autoimmunity. AGO-Abs were mostly of immunoglobulin G 1 subclass and conformation dependent. Using CBA, AGO-Abs were detected in 21 patients with a high suspicion of autoimmune neurologic diseases (71.4% were women; median age 57 years) and only in 4/856 (0.5%) controls analyzed by CBA (1 diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer and the other 3 with Sjögren syndrome). Among the 21 neurologic patients identified, the main clinical presentations were sensory neuronopathy (8/21, 38.1%) and limbic encephalitis (6/21, 28.6%). Fourteen patients (66.7%) had autoimmune comorbidities and/or co-occurring Abs, whereas AGO-Abs were the only autoimmune biomarker for the remaining 7/21 (33.3%). Thirteen (61.9%) patients were treated with immunotherapy; 8/13 (61.5%) improved, and 3/13 (23.1%) remained stable, suggesting an efficacy of these treatments.

Conclusions

AGO-Abs might be potential biomarkers of autoimmunity in patients with central and peripheral nonparaneoplastic neurologic diseases. In 7 patients, AGO-Abs were the only biomarkers; thus, their identification may be useful to suspect the autoimmune character of the neurologic disorder.

Classification of Evidence

This study provides Class III evidence that AGO-Abs are more frequent in patients with autoimmune neurologic diseases than controls.

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